2010 Audi A5 Reviews
Cars.com Expert Reviews
Around Cars.com's Chicago office, autumn is a dubious season to evaluate a convertible. Most days are too brisk for top-down driving, but it's not yet cold enough to write off trying. So you do, and then you regret that you did. Then you stare at the car with the top back up and wonder if you ought to try again.
Audi, for its part, makes this all pretty easy. The A5 Cabriolet's cloth top powers down in less than 20 seconds, and when your senses get the better of you, it returns to its perch nearly as fast. The car doesn't offer the spectacle of a folding metal hardtop, but Snow Belt drivers who don't have the means to get a different winter car will appreciate Audi's inclusion of all-wheel drive, an option that's rare among convertibles.
One thing to note: Like many Audis, the A5's driving experience is polarizing. A few miles into your test drive, I suspect you'll know exactly which camp you're in. I'm a convert — slight pun intended — mostly because, idiosyncrasies aside, the A5 is big on common-sense accommodations.
Audi introduced the A5 coupe for the 2008 model year. The A5 Cabriolet, introduced for 2010, replaces last year's A4 Cabriolet, which was based on an A4 sedan from the early 2000s. (OK, I surrender. It will be "convertible" from here out.) The A5 convertible, related to the current A4, comes standard with front-wheel drive, a 211-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and a continuously variable automatic transmission. Quattro all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic, packaged together, are optional. The convertible cannot be had with the coupe's 265-hp V-6, nor does it come with a manual transmission.
Performance enthusiasts can step up to the S5 convertible, which pairs a 333-hp, supercharged V-6 with a manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox. We cover the S5 separately on Cars.com. Click here for a comparison of the full range of A5 and S5 coupes and convertibles. We tested an all-wheel-drive A5 convertible.
Going & Stopping
Turbo lag rears its head on occasion in the A5 convertible, which is strange given how little there is in other Audis we've tested with the same engine. Throw in a case of relaxed accelerator response, and the drivetrain doesn't react immediately to your right foot, particularly in the passing lane. Shortly thereafter, there's ample power as the turbo kicks in, but the A5 has neither the quick-revving immediacy of a BMW 328i nor the all-out push of an Infiniti G37. The Lexus IS 250C is pokier still, but the A5 is rarely exhilarating.
Audi's six-speed automatic is a mediocre dance partner. It upshifts early and often, keeping the engine from hitting its stride at higher revs unless you push the car hard. At least it kicks down quickly enough on the highway — though the issues above still hamstring passing power more than the automatic can salvage it.
Our test car had Audi's optional Audi Drive Select, which varies drivetrain, suspension and steering response to Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes. The performance-oriented Dynamic mode cuts a bit of the accelerator lag, though not enough to solve its problems. It doesn't seem to issue any new marching orders for the automatic, either. Should you tire of the shifting patterns, a manual-shift mode allows you to take over.
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard. Some may find the pedal a bit touchy at first, but its overall response is strong. With some practice, it's easy to fine-tune your deceleration.
Ride & Handling
Folding roofs lack the inherent rigidity of fixed hardtops, so convertibles can shimmy a bit more over bumps — a condition known as cowl shake. The A5 convertible can get noodly over extended sections of broken pavement, but it isn't excessive.
Our test car had a Sport package with 19-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension. It also had adaptive shock absorbers, a feature included with Audi Drive Select. All things considered, ride quality is quite good. Some may find the car too firm over major bumps, but the suspension dispatches smaller imperfections with little drama. I tried to tell a difference in ride comfort between Audi Drive Select's three modes, which purport to adjust suspension damping along with everything else, but I couldn't. If you can, I have a dozen mattresses and a pea for you to sleep on. It's likely that the greater difference in ride comfort lies between the sport and base suspensions, the latter of which uses 18-inch wheels.
Like Mercedes and Volvo, Audi has long cultivated its own steering feel, and the A5 augments things with an optional speed-variable steering ratio that's not unlike BMW's Active Steering. Some may decide the progression from gobs of power-steering assist at single-digit speeds to minimal assist at higher speeds feels staged and unnatural. (To be fair, most cars do this to some degree. Audi's is just especially pronounced.) I found the execution superior to the last Audi Q5 crossover we tested, whose oscillations between the two extremes felt sudden and unpredictable. The A5 is easy to wheel around parking lots and alleyways, though its 37.4-foot turning circle is a bit wide for this league. At higher speeds, the wheel firms up predictably to deliver a natural, weighty balance with good turn-in precision. Like the A4, it encourages all sorts of mischief on back roads and highway interchanges.
More good news: Unlike the V-6 A4 we tested earlier, the A5 doesn't have an overwhelming degree of nose-heavy understeer. It's easier to slide the tail out, easier to point the hood where you want, and altogether more fun to drive. Audi says its latest generation of Quattro all-wheel drive diverts more power to the rear wheels under normal conditions, so the driving experience on dry roads comes closer to that of a rear-wheel-drive car. The A4 never left a real sense of that. This Audi does.
Before you bang the gavel on steering, be sure to check out an A5 with Audi Drive Select. Comfort and Dynamic modes render perceptibly different characteristics: Comfort maximizes steering ease at low speeds, but the wheel returns a loose, unsettled feeling on the highway. Dynamic mode resolves that, and it also reduces body roll to acceptable — but not true sport-coupe — levels.
Topping Things Off
There are more folding hardtops today than ever before; the A5 convertible's immediate competitors all employ them. Why is Audi the lone softie? The automaker cites a few reasons: Soft-tops aren't as aesthetically compromising as hardtops, nor do they intrude on trunk and cabin space like a retractable hardtop does. They operate faster. They don't weigh as much, which helps gas mileage and performance.
I buy some of those reasons, but not all of them. Cargo volume, at 10.2 cubic feet, is down 1.8 cubic feet versus the A5 coupe's trunk. You'll lose a bit more of that with the convertible top lowered. Audi doesn't report cargo volume with the top down, but the decrease in our test car looked to be about 20 percent or 30 percent. That's far less intrusion than the folding tops in the BMW 3 Series, G37 and Lexus IS convertibles, which take up a clear majority of trunk space when they're down. Consider: The Volvo C70's hardtop is one of the least intrusive of its kind, and it takes up 53 percent of the trunk. Folding hardtops aren't small contraptions, and they have to go somewhere.
It took our test car's power top 17 seconds to lower and 19 seconds to raise, and there's no fiddling with latches or levers required to bookend the process. That's a few seconds quicker than Lexus and BMW — and much faster than Infiniti and Volvo, whose slowpoke tops each require about 30 seconds to do their thing. Another bonus: Audi's top operates at speeds up to 30 mph. Most folding hardtops we've tested call it quits if you start moving at all. It's usually for good reason — to avoid hardware damage and discourage distracted driving. But get a few honks at a green light while you wait for the top to finish its thing, and you'll wish it could at least do so while you were starting off.
Thanks to having the group's only four-cylinder engine, the all-wheel-drive A5's EPA-estimated city/highway combined rating comes to 23 mpg. The rating applies to both the coupe and convertible — one possible result of the droptop weighing only some 350 pounds more than an A5 coupe with an identical drivetrain. The turbo motor can also use regular-grade fuel, though Audi recommends premium for the best performance. The G37, IS 250C and 328i all require premium; the C70 is the only one that recommends regular.
|Luxury Convertibles Compared|
|Audi A5 AWD auto||BMW 328i RWD auto||Infiniti G37 RWD auto||Lexus IS 250C RWD auto||Volvo C70 FWD auto|
|0 to 60 mph, sec.||7.2||7.2||N/A||8.4||7.4|
|EPA combined mileage||23 mpg||21 mpg||20 mpg||24 mpg||22 mpg|
|Fuel||Premium (recommended)||Premium (required)||Premium (required)||Premium (required)||Regular|
|Weight vs. coupe||+352 lbs.||+441 lbs.||+462 lbs.||N/A||N/A|
|0 to 60 mph vs. coupe||+0.6 sec.||+0.4 sec.||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Mileage vs. coupe||No change||-1 mpg||-1 mpg||N/A||N/A|
|*With automatic transmissions|
Source: Automaker and EPA data for 2010 models and 2009 Infiniti G37. (As of this writing, the 2010 G37 is not yet available.) Weight, acceleration and mileage compared to coupe versions of A5 2.0T Quattro, 328i and G37 with automatic transmissions. Lexus and Volvo do not build comparable coupes; Infiniti does not provide acceleration figures.
What I don't buy are Audi's aesthetic reasons for keeping the soft-top. The A5 looks sharp with the top up or down, but that's mostly because its coupe sibling is so well done. Some A5 competitors look odd — the IS convertible, in particular, has a ruinously proportioned tail — but a fundamental benefit of the hardtop convertible has always been that it can retain the lines of a coupe. Some, like the BMW 3 Series convertible, do this better than others.
Another soft-top deficit is wind noise with the top up. The A5 keeps it low — road noise is low, too — but the wind begins to creep up around 70 mph or so. Hardtop convertibles generally do a better job of insulating against noise, so if you're shopping the competition, make sure to log some highway miles on your test drives.
Audi's reputation for interior quality is still venerable: Few cabins in this price range have such consistently high-quality finishes no matter where you look. It's no slam-dunk — a few controls, from the turn-signal stalk to the global window switch, feel low-rent — but it's good overall, even for this price range.
More impressive is the A5's accommodating nature. It's the sort of thing you wouldn't expect in a convertible, let alone one from the European school of stop-whining-and-drive. The center armrest adjusts upward and forward for shorter drivers. Motorized seat belt extenders present front occupants their belts upon starting the car. Backseat passengers can have their own manual climate zone and even overhead reading lights, which the convertible top swallows as it retracts. Nifty, and not typical convertible fare. The rear backrests also fold down to accommodate cargo that's too long for the trunk — another feature few convertibles offer.
The cabin feels snug, with short windows and A-pillars positioned far enough ahead that they may obstruct sightlines for some drivers. I had decent headroom with the driver's seat powered all the way up, and I'm 5-foot-11. More concerning were the bucket seats' backrests; over the course of a two-state road trip, a passenger and I found them too firm. Our tester had sport seats with thicker side bolsters, so it's possible the base seats offer more backrest cushioning. Be sure to try out both styles.
In back, headroom and legroom are snug, but it's a workable setup. Not bad, considering this is a convertible.
Audi's latest-generation Multi Media Interface represents a significant improvement over its MMI predecessor, but there's still room for improvement. We detail why in the "Updated Multi Media Interface" section of our Q5 review.
Safety, Features & Reliability
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash-tested the A5. Standard features include six airbags — dual front chest and knee airbags, plus front-seat side airbags with head extensions — as well as antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. Click here for a full list.
A blind-spot warning system is optional. It incorporates warning lights in the windshield pillars that illuminate if there's traffic at four or eight o'clock — and flash several times if you activate a turn signal when there is. Our test car had the system. It worked as advertised, but too often trees or concrete medians triggered false alarms. Like other blind spot warning systems, Audi's can be deactivated.
In ascending order, trim levels for the A5 convertible include Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Front-wheel-drive models with the CVT run $42,000; all-wheel drive and the six-speed automatic add a reasonable $2,100. Standard features include leather upholstery, power front seats, single-zone automatic climate control and a CD stereo with an auxiliary MP3 jack. Move up the chain, and you can get full iPod connectivity — which really ought to be standard in this price range — as well as a Bang & Olufsen stereo, xenon headlights, tri-zone climate control, a navigation system, two sport packages, and heated and cooled seats.
In Consumer Reports reliability surveys, the A5 earns a score of Average. That's about even with the 3 Series and C70, but the IS and G37 have better track records.
A5 Convertible in the Market
I suspect the economy is still too dubious to support stronger convertible popularity, but so far this year Audi hasn't taken quite the sales bath its luxury competitors have. Lexus and Infiniti will draw new people to this segment, and established players like Audi and BMW stand to benefit. The A5's soft-top could keep some shoppers away, but the car's versatility, style and relative fuel efficiency should draw more than a few of them back.
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